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Toyota introduces autonomous freight concept vehicle

Toyota’s e-Palette concept vehicles would be capable of moving people, goods or for other uses, based on user needs.

Kenworth shows off hydrogen tractor; Peterbilt displays autonomous tech

Trucking and logistics have grabbed a share of the spotlight this year at the Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas. None, though, has grabbed more attention than Toyota’s E-Palette concept and alliance that includes such big names as Amazon, DiDi, Mazda, Pizza Hut and Uber.

The e-Palette is designed for an e-commerce world. An open interior design layout allows users to customize the vehicle to their needs, including parcel delivery or ride-sharing. It can also be transformed easily, allowing a single use to move passengers in the morning and cargo in the afternoon.

The vehicle features a low floor/cube shape design and would come in three sizes of varying lengths. It features vehicle control technology and open Application Programming Interface (API) for development of automated driving systems (automated driving control software and cameras/sensors, etc.).  

The concept reflects one of Toyota’s visions for Automated Mobility as a Service (Autono-MaaS) applications. It is a fully-automated, next generation battery electric vehicle (BEV) designed to be scalable and customizable for a range of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) businesses.

“The automobile industry is clearly amidst its most dramatic period of change as technologies like electrification, connected and automated driving are making significant progress. Toyota remains committed to making ever better cars. Just as important, we are developing mobility solutions to help everyone enjoy their lives, and we are doing our part to create an ever-better society for the next 100 years and beyond. This announcement marks a major step forward in our evolution towards sustainable mobility, demonstrating our continued expansion beyond traditional cars and trucks to the creation of new values including services for customers,” said Akio Toyoda, Toyota Motor Corp. president.  

The e-Palette Alliance will create a broad-based ecosystem of hardware and software support designed to help a range of companies utilize advanced mobility technology to better serve customers, Toyota said.

The e-Palette Alliance will leverage the power of Toyota’s MSPF to build a new ecosystem for mobility-powered businesses. Announced in 2016, the MSPF is Toyota’s framework for a range of connected vehicle applications, providing a full suite of services needed to support MaaS ranging from vehicle leasing and insurance to fleet management and big data.
Toyota plans to conduct feasibility testing of the e-Palette Concept in various regions, including the United States, in the early 2020s. 

Kenworth shows hydrogen fuel cell tractor

Kenworth Truck Company also displayed at the CES show for the first time, putting its zero-emission T680 day car tractor with hydrogen fuel cell truck on stage.

 Kenworth's T680 hydrogen test vehicle is being used in the California ports.
Kenworth’s T680 hydrogen test vehicle is being used in the California ports.

The tractor is part of the Zero Emission Cargo Transport (ZECT) demonstration project managed through Southern California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). The vehicle’s fuel cell combines compressed hydrogen gas and air to produce electricity with only water vapor emitted at the tailpipe. This electricity can power the dual-rotor electric motor to move the truck, or it can recharge the lithium-ion batteries for use later. 

The hybrid drive system manages the power from the fuel cell to and from the batteries, as well as the traction motors and other components, such as the electrified power steering and brake air compressor.

“Kenworth’s hydrogen fuel-cell T680 is a reality,” said Stephan Olsen, Kenworth director of product planning. “The T680 has been running trials in the Seattle area and performing very well. The next step is real-world testing with Total Transportation Services Inc. (TTSI) at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in Southern California.”

Olsen said the hydrogen fuel-cell based Kenworth T680 will have an initial range of 150 miles, which makes it ideal for short haul and port operations, and will produce 565 hp, making it capable of pulling the legal gross combination weight of a Class 8 vehicle.

“Our testing shows that this truck performs equally as well, if not better than, current diesel trucks on the market,” said Olsen. “There is a lot of promise, and we see the day where Kenworth’s zero and near-zero emission trucks could be a common sight in regional operations. Kenworth is heavily focused on the evaluation and development of both zero and near-zero emission solutions for the trucking industry.”

The truck is currently in trials in California.

Peterbilt brings autonomous tech to show

Peterbilt brought a Model 579 tractor with autonomous technologies to the show. The development vehicle features a Paccar MX-13 engine and a suite of autonomous technologies that are currently in development.

“Technology is reshaping the commercial vehicle industry, and we have to be sure Peterbilt is on the front line of those developments,” said Kyle Quinn, general manager, Peterbilt Motors Company. “CES is a melting pot of companies making breakthroughs and pushing the envelope in a wide variety of industries, trucking included. This opportunity to showcase Peterbilt’s work is exciting.”

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.